E-government and e-participation, open data and social media, can all help governments to rebuild citizens’ trust, if harnessed appropriately. In combination, these tools and platforms can be even more powerful. Linking open data and social media to an e-government platform can create an environment of mutually reinforcing social trust. Rebuilding trust in government will also require progress on a range of enabling technologies and processes, such as high-speed internet, mobile technology and appropriate protocols and security measures.
According to World Economic Forum project manager Melita Leoussis and Keith Grant, professor of public leadership and management at the University of Warwick, technology has fundamentally changed leadership in the public sector. The most predominant trend is the devolution of power, authority and influence: leaders are in decline and followers are on the rise. Hierarchies are becoming flatter while the gap between leaders and followers is closing, the result of a cultural shift brought about by technology and access to information, ease of expression and the ability to connect. Political activism is on the rise; never before have citizens been able to organise, rally, inspire and require change as today.
Three key aspects of ICT have the potential to transform government and private sector leadership: information technology, big data, and disruptive and exponential technologies.
Information technology (IT) has permeated all aspects of organisational and individual life. Annual economic growth from the digital revolution (+3%) will outpace the industrial revolutions. More information is created every two days than from the years 0 to 2003. In 2011, despite the unfavourable global economic climate, digitisation – the mass adoption of digital technology through connected services and devices – provided a $193-billion boost to the world economic outlook and created 6-million jobs globally. IT can help to rebuild leadership in government.
Big data will become a key basis for competition, growth and innovation. Big data will also result in revolutionary applications, from genomics to business models to security. In the future, business will use data from social networking and supply chains to tailor products according to consumer needs before they are even created. Policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property and even liability will need to be addressed in a world of big data. Big data can help to rebuild leadership.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, there were more than 230-million knowledge workers in 2012, and the potential economic effect by 2025 of automation of knowledge work will be $5-trillion to $7-trillion. New technologies are almost automatically called “breakthrough” and “the next big thing”. Yet, according to the same report, “some technologies do in fact have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, rearrange value pools and lead to entirely new products and services.” Important technologies can come in any field or emerge from any scientific discipline, but they share four characteristics: a high rate of technology change; broad potential scope of impact; large economic value; and substantial potential for disruptive economic impact. Technologies with potential for economic disruption – such as mobile internet, the “internet of things”, cloud computing and advanced robotics – can help rebuild leadership in government.
Governments as well as the world’s top enterprises will need to employ exponential technologies and incentivised innovation to dramatically accelerate their business objectives. According to the McKinsey Institute
report on disruptive technologies, policy makers need to prepare for future technology by understanding how technology will shape the global economy and society over the coming decade. Governments will have to allow their citizens to live in a climate of prosperity, safeguard the provision of public goods, and ensure the harmonious delivery of services.
Corruption undermines the efficiency of government revenue and spending, it distorts the distribution of resources within the economy and undermines competitiveness, political fairness, safety and inclusion.
There are three main root causes – information monopolies, concentration of power and limited accountability. The common thread connecting them is control of information. The proliferation of ICT can reduce corruption by “day-lighting” activities and strengthening the voice of citizens.
Open data dismantles traditional information monopolies by making information available to all. A 2009 study found a strong and direct correlation between implementation of e-government measures and corruption over a 10-year period. The correlation was even stronger than that between corruption and freedom of the press.
Technology can limit the discretion of public officials by automating processes
such as the distribution of payments and benefits. For example, in 2009, the
Afghan National Police began to test paying salaries through mobile phones instead of cash. Most policemen assumed they received a raise when they were merely receiving their full pay for the first time. In the past, at least 10% of payments went to ghost police officers, and middlemen were skimming off the top. Technology also provides platforms for engaging citizens in policy formation.
ICT can enhance the detection of corruption by empowering citizens
to hold public-service providers to account. A randomised control trial in
50 communities in Uganda found that publishing basic data on the quality of health services and sharing it at meetings empowered citizens to hold service providers accountable and led to improved health outcomes.
Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, State Secretary, State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation of Switzerland
The ability to recognise, assess and nimbly respond to challenges is crucial for governments to preserve stability and sustain growth in the face of changing times. While dealing with increasing constraints such as limited budgets, geopolitical risks and trade competition, the public sector needs to innovate to successfully fulfil its mission. Innovation is equally important in – and is widely accepted as a key factor of – building competitiveness to develop a strong and advanced knowledge-based economy. The state has a key role to play in contributing to improving the country’s competitiveness by ensuring good conditions for economic and social prosperity and by sustaining the innovation capacity.
In the private sector, efficiency and innovation have always been critical
factors of success, but the public sector evolved from a different set of goals. Public-sector change is often linked to new laws and social norms, not innovation. For example, the social welfare state, universal primary education and infrastructure improvements required government to scale, but not necessarily to innovate. However, in recent years there have been many calls for innovation in the public sector.
Since the public sector contributes to a substantial share of gross domestic product, innovation can potentially “improve productivity (and hence living standards), efficiency of service delivery and quality of public services” (EPSIS 201355). It should also enhance the agility of government to address immediate or future challenges.
The development of ICT can become an input, opening new possibilities,
constraints and pushing governments to react, adapt or find new solutions.
ICT is itself an innovative product, stimulating all sorts of other innovations.
Technological innovation can generate non-technological innovation, such as know-how, skills and organisation.
It can be a means to provide new services internally and externally or to improve their supply, fostering core values such as efficiency, accessibility and transparency.
ICT and technological innovation in general can be a result of the government’s actions. Public procurement, with its specific requirements and needs, can induce technological innovations.
ICT is crucial to imagine, implement and monitor policies and services. Yet, it is important to note it has no intrinsically positive effects, and should be carefully understood and analysed to identify how it can stimulate or hinder innovation.
Governments can stimulate innovation in the private sector as part of their mission to support national competitiveness. Governments are increasingly aware of its importance and put innovation activities at the centre of growth strategies.
Sources and further reading:
Future of Government Smart Toolbox
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